Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wants to tax home heating oil and push some 18,000 Seattle homeowners reliant on the crude oil product to convert to electric heating pumps.

“Moving faster to convert Seattle’s homes off of dirty fossil fuels is good for our climate, our economy, and our children’s future,” Durkan said in a news release.

The mayor’s office drafted legislation for city council. Councilmember Mike O’Brien said he will sponsor the legislation and plans to have it before the full council in September.

“We need to be off fossil fuels by 2030,” O’Brien said, adding that heating oil was “dirty, not very efficient” and had a high carbon cost fueling greenhouse gas emissions.

The mayor’s office estimated that converting 18,000 homes would be equivalent to removing the emissions of 9,000 cars each year.

Durkan’s proposed tax of 24 cents per gallon on heating oil providers would fund programs to help households switch to electric heat. The tax would take effect in July 2020, according to the news release. The legislation also calls for oil tanks to be decommissioned or upgraded by the end of 2028.


Converting and decommissioning oil heating systems can cost thousands of dollars.

The mayor’s office estimates that 1,000 low-income households would be eligible for conversion entirely on the city’s dime.

“This is relatively easy to do, to say, hey, we want to help you pay for a conversion and your utility bill will go down,” O’Brien said. The mayor’s office estimates that heating oil costs a household $1,700 a year on average and that an electric heat pump would cost about half that in electricity.

Robert Lauch, an employee of the Ballard Oil Company, a heating oil provider, called the mayor’s proposal a “tax on old people,” saying most of the company’s customers were over 50 years old and living in Seattle’s older homes.

“Business never pays for anything. If you don’t pass the cost on to the consumer, you’re not in business anymore,” he said.

Lauch said Ballard Oil Company has about 3,000 customers in Seattle. The company serves households from Des Moines to South Everett.

Typically, customers have 300-gallon tanks on their property, which are filled up about two or three times each year, Lauch said. He said Ballard Oil in recent years has lost some customers to electric heat pumps, but picked more up as other heating oil providers shrank and consolidated.

The company charges $2.83 per gallon to fill tanks that are 275 gallons and larger, according to its website.